By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa soccer captain Senzo Meyiwa was shot dead by intruders when trying to protect his girlfriend during a robbery at her home near Johannesburg, officials said on Monday.
The 27-year-old Orlando Pirates goalkeeper died on Sunday after suffering a single shot through the chest at the home of girlfriend Kelly Khumalo, a local actress and singer, in the township of Vosloorus.
"Two guys entered the house and demanded cellphones, money and other valuables," provincial Community Safety official Sizakele Nkosi-Malubane told reporters at the scene.
"Senzo tried to protect Kelly because one of the men had a gun pointed towards her."
Police said two men entered Khumalo's house about 8 p.m. local time (2:00 p.m. EDT) where Meyiwa was in a party of seven in the house. A third assailant waited outside the house and all three fled immediately after the shooting.
Meyiwa was declared dead on arrival at hospital, the police added.
South Africa coach Ephraim Mashaba comforted several of Meyiwa's team mates who had arrived at the hospital not long after the shooting.
"We can assure all South Africans that we will do all we can to bring Meyiwa's killers (to) book," the South African Police Services said on its Twitter account, offering a reward of 150,000 South African rand ($13,700).
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega announced a special task force team had been formed to investigate the murder. She will brief reporters later on Monday.
"We mourn the death of this young footballer and team leader whose life has been taken away at the prime of his career," said a statement from South African president Jacob Zuma on Monday.
"The law enforcement authorities must leave no stone unturned in finding his killers and bring them to justice. Words cannot express the nation's shock at this loss."
Police cordoned off the street leading to house on Monday morning as a forensic team conducted its investigation, keeping interested locals and reporters from the scene.
Meyiwa captained South Africa in their last four matches in the African Nations Cup qualifiers without conceding a goal and played on Saturday when his club advanced to the semi-finals of the South African League Cup.
"This is a sad loss which ever way you look at it -- to Senzo's family, his extended family, Orlando Pirates and to the nation," Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza said in a statement.
Meyiwa's death has further highlighted South Africa's rampant gun violence less than a week after Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was given a five-year jail sentence for culpable homicide after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
More than 17,000 people were murdered in South Africa between April 2013 and March 2014, an increase of about 800 over the previous year, according to police figures.
(Additional reporting by Siphiwe Sibeko; Editing by John O'Brien)