Springboks captain Siya Kolisi says their World Cup triumph was "for all South Africans" who "make our wonderful country an even better place".
Kolisi became the first black South African captain to lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy when the Springboks beat England 32-12 on Saturday.
The returning squad members were greeted by thousands of fans when they landed in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"We are tired but grateful, humbled and overawed. Thank you," said Kolisi.
"In Japan, we got a glimpse of the support back home, but this reception is something else - we can't begin to thank everyone for backing us throughout this journey."
The players arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on three different flights on Tuesday, with more to return on Wednesday.
"We did this for all South Africans - ordinary people who work tirelessly all day long to care for their families and friends and ultimately make our wonderful country an even better place," added Kolisi, 28.
"Winning the World Cup on foreign soil was very special and arriving home to this wonderful support is the cherry on top."
Most of the squad will now embark on a 'Champions Tour', visiting Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town after kicking off with a parade through Pretoria, Johannesburg and Soweto on Thursday.
"We brought the Webb Ellis Cup home for all South Africans and we really wish we could go everywhere to thank our supporters, but unfortunately logistics and time constraints doesn't allow for that to happen this time," said coach Rassie Erasmus.
"I would like to agree with Siya - the support here at the airport made all the hard work and sacrifices over the last two months worth it.
"Thank you to everyone who came out to greet us."