Thousands of people gave the World Cup-winning Springboks a roaring welcome in Soweto on Thursday, as they passed through the Johannesburg township where they were once hated for a homecoming tour steeped in symbolism.

South Africa edged arch-rivals New Zealand 12-11 to achieve a record fourth Rugby World Cup title and their second in a row in a gripping final last Saturday in Paris.

In Soweto, teenagers danced in their school uniforms, as others, young and old, waved South African flags and yellow signs reading "thank you Bokke (Springboks)," waiting for the yellow and green open-top bus carrying the players.