The South African was the only one to dip under 54 seconds, but where he really impressed is that after what looked like a poor turn in the evening race, which allowed his rivals to draw level, he powered away from them to get to the wall first.
And he should have more in reserve considering his personal best is 53.62.
Chad le Clos, seeking one medal to draw level with the career haul of 18 Games medals, failed to win a lane in Saturday’s final after finishing fifth in his semifinal in 23.67.
SA’s triple butterfly champion from Gold Coast still has the 100m and 200m races to go.
In the first final of the evening Matthew Sates ended seventh in the 400m freestyle, with the Australians scooping all three, newly crowned world champion Elijah Winnington adding the Commonwealth Games gold after clocking 3 min 43.06 sec.
Sates touched in a distant 3:50.07, slower than his heat swim of 3:49.69 and the 3:49.27 personal best he set in May.
This isn’t his strongest event, but he wouldn’t have been happy with that performance. He’ll have opportunities to make amends in the 200m freestyle on Saturday as well as the 200m and 400m individual medley races later in the gala.
Elsewhere, Jamie Riddle finished sixth in the men’s triathlon after sitting in the top three well into the final 5km run, while Simone Ackerman ended eighth in the women’s race.
Henri Schoeman, the defending champion, withdrew from the men’s race to focus on the relay, where SA are hoping to win a podium spot on Sunday.
The Blitzboks, champions in 2014, won their first two pool matches comfortably, downing Malaysia 46-0 and Tonga 36-5 to secure qualification to the quarterfinals.
Angelo Davids scored a hat-trick of tries against Malaysia, with Muller du Plessis, Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Dewald Human and Zain Davids also dotting down.
Human and Christie Grobbelaar each went over twice against Tonga, with Jo Pretorius and Sakoyisa Makata, Soyizwapi also crossing the line. But Mfundo Ndhlovu’s tournament could be over after going off injured in the second half.
The Blitzboks will play Scotland in their final group match to determine the pool winner.
Their female rugby sevens counterparts, however, went down 38-0 to Australia and 41-0 to Fiji, Olympic bronze medallists.
Lawn bowls delivered a mixed bag of results with Colleen Piketh, a 2012 world championship bronze medallist, bagging a 21-14 triumph over Nooroa Mataio of the Cook Islands before losing 13-21 to Litia Tikoisuva of Fiji, the 2019 Pacific Games champion.
The SA women’s hockey team were beaten 2-4 by Scotland.