Amor Vittone says she and her children were told to say goodbye to Joost van der Westhuizen on Saturday.
The former Bok scrumhalf, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2011, was rushed to hospital and said to be in a critical condition.
On Sunday, the J9 Foundation said Van der Westhuizen had showed signs of improvement.
'Joost has been much better today, however he is tired and has been resting this afternoon,' the Foundation stated on its Facebook page.
In an interview with Rapport newspaper, Van der Westhuizen's ex-wife said they had feared the worst.
'Yesterday we said goodbye to Joost. Myself, Jordan and Kylie [their children]. It was really tough, and then he came back,' said an emotional Vittone.
'My children and I were at the hospital for more than 12 hours. There was no communication, he was in a coma. The children held both his icy hands. The staff told us that we should say goodbye. It was really tough.
'Later we returned to his room. Kylie fell asleep on his bed. I told Joost's mother how nicely he was sleeping.
'The next moment came Joost suddenly came to. I said to him, “Joost, Kylie and Jordan are here,” and he blinked his eyes to show he had heard. It was an incredible moment.'
Photo: You magazine