New Zealand player Hoani MacDonald is emerging from an induced coma, after his shock collapse during a NPC semifinal.
The lock forward, who has played in Australia and Wales, collapsed after a heart attack.
Macdonald was rushed to hospital, while his Stags teammates tried to keep their championship hopes alive.
Several thousand fans watched on as he went down, clutching his chest, with his team 7-6 ahead midway through the first half.
Macdonald had gone into cardiac arrest and flat-lined.
Around him, the teams played on and Southland went on to score a try just a few metres from where medics worked on MacDonald.
On Sunday officials said he was on the mend.
"Southland Stag Hoani Macdonald has started to come out of an induced coma," New Zealand Rugby Union General Manager Neil Sorensen said in a statement.
"He is showing early positive signs - including acknowledging questions and recognising people around him.
"While this is positive news, he remains in intensive care at Middlemore Hospital and his condition is described as stable.
"Hoani's family remain at his bedside and have expressed thanks for the massive outpouring of love and support from the New Zealand public.
"The family have asked for continued privacy through this testing time," Sorensen added.
The 34-year-old required vigorous CPR treatment for more than five minutes before he could be moved from the field and rushed to hospital.
"You didn't really know whether it was a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg - it could have been anything. But once he was transported down to this end of the field, you could see it was pretty serious," said spectator Graeme Wilson.
"Play had carried on downfield and, as normal, a lot of energies. A lot of people didn't think too much of it and carried on watching play.
"It wasn't until they signalled for a medi cart to go down there that we realised probably a lot more serious than the average rugby injury."
Wilson, a member of the Pukekohe Volunteer Fire Brigade, was in the crowd, when he was paged to the scene.
"CPR was in progress and then they started to defib the guy to see if they could bring him back," said Wilson.
"Once he started to cough, and show some signs of thrashing and wanting to throw his arms around, sometimes it's an indication you're on the good side."
Macdonald has his fiance, two young children and mother at his bedside.
In a long career, he has represented NZ Maori, the Junior All Blacks, the Highlanders and Melbourne Rebels.
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