Johannesburg - South Africa's Jordy Smith clinched third place in the Quiksilver Pro France on Monday to move up to 9th place on the rankings with two events still to be run before the 2014 World Surfing Champion is crowned.
The event was won by Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence, who dominated the final rounds of competition held in heaving two to three metre hollow waves, defeating Jadson Andre of Brazil in the final.
Smith was on fire from the outset, winning his opening encounter in smaller one-and-a-half metre waves last week to advance directly to round three where he defeated Julian Wilson of Australian.
Victory over Australian Taj Burrow and Andre in the fourth round saw Smith progress to the quarterfinals.
There he defeated current ASP World number-two Kelly Slater of the United States before being eliminated by Andre in their semi-final duel.
"I felt like I had a good heat against Kelly, then I couldn't buy a wave in my semi-final," Smith said.
"Congrats to Jadson (Andre) though. He's been surfing well all event and he's hungry for a result. I'm looking forward to the next one."
Following the elimination of current ASP WCT rankings leader Gabriel Medina of Brazil in the quarterfinals, Smith's clash with Slater held huge title implications.
The 11-time ASP World Champion's loss means that the 20-year-old Brazilian can now clinch the 2014 ASP World Title by winning the next event in Portugal.
Florence has been on a roll in recent events, collecting a third in Tahiti and a runner-up finish to Smith in Trestles before his win in the South of France.
Florence has moved from eight to fifth on the ASP WCT rankings and has vaulted himself into contention for the 2014 world surfing crown.
"I'm really pumped with my results lately," Florence said.
"I had a few weird things happen for me at the start of the year and I've made some adjustments recently.
"I've spoken to a lot of guys about the title and they all say that the title campaign actually starts the year before."
South Africa's Travis Logie placed 13th in France after beating Nat Young of the US in round two before narrowly losing to Slater in the third round.
Logie retains his 31st spot on the rankings and will have to be at his best in the last two events of the season to move into the top 22 to automatically re-qualify for the elite WCT in 2015. Meanwhile, Women's Pro Bianca Buitendag lost her opening two heats at the Cascais Women's Pro in Portugal last week to finish equal 13th on the Samsung Galaxy Women's World Championship Tour (WCT).
The 20-year-old from George dropped from sixth to seventh on the 2014 WCT rankings going into the final event of the year in Hawaii at the end of November.
Stephanie Gilmore secured her third victory of the year at the Cascais Women's Pro by defeating fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons in a hard-fought final.