Ritchie began day three with a four-shot lead and managed to stay on top of the leaderboard as Tyrone Ferreira fired a sizzling third round eight-under 64, cutting his compatriot’s lead to two shots going into today’s final round.
Ferreira is tied for second with Christiaan Basson, who shot a five-under 67 for a 54-hole total of 11-under par 205.
Next at 10-under par is the 2013 Zimbabwe Open champion Jake Roos of South Africa as well as his fellow countrymen Peter Karmis and Vaughn Groenewald, one ahead of the English duo of Steve Surry and Jack Harrison as well as South Africans Jean Hugo and Jaco Ahles.
Richie, who is bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the Zimbabwe Open title in 20 years, got his penultimate round off to a flying start with an eagle on the par five third.
He, however, immediately dropped a shot on the par four fourth, but responded in style by making three birdies to make the turn in 32.
After five straight pars on the back nine, Ritchie dropped a shot at the par-three 15th before suffering consecutive bogeys in his last two holes as he struggled for the first time in this tournament.
“I started off so nicely today, it’s just that the putter went a little bit cold on the back nine,” Ritchie said.
“I lost the speed of the greens a little bit and managed to hit two or three putts through the break. It just went a little bit southward on the back nine.”
Mark Williams, who had started the day as the highest placed local, carded a two-over par 74 for a three-under-par 213 total and is now a shot behind the trio of Ryan Cairns, Trainos Muradzikwa and Robson Chinhoi who are all tied for position 32 on four-under-par.