Coming after two training runs and with players out of quarantine on Wednesday, it was a chance for the team to enjoy a week of preparation to get better for the second Test in Dunedin.
Cotter said the coaching team was happy with the effort from Fiji who had put themselves around the park and it was a performance they could build on.
By clearing up areas they hadn't been accurate; in their first half exits, in their penalty concessions and in feeding the All Blacks' counterattack, they could make some rapid improvement, he said.
"The ingredients are there, a brave performance…you can build something from that," he said.
At 31-23 behind, Fiji needed to score again to validate the areas they were doing well. But they hadn't been as efficient in their play immediately after they had scored.
However, they did compete at the breakdown.
"I think we made up for a lot of our errors with bravery, and some of the technique that we had in that area, and if we can keep doing that, and polish up some other areas, I think we'll be a handful."
The play at the breakdown was a natural feature for the Fijians because of their strength.
Cotter said he knew the Fijian players were up for the game, they hadn't played the All Blacks in 10 years, and playing them was a good reference point. And having more games against top tier sides would see the team improve even more.
"They've shown enough in this game to be offered more opportunities to play those teams. There's some talent in the islands that will need exposure.
“There's a lot of things to develop to get Fijian rugby up there, but they're amazing explosive athletes, and it's a joy to watch them play when you see them throwing themselves around the paddock. To see them play more often against good teams would be great," he said.
The loss of halfback Simione Kuruvoli had knocked the side because they didn't have a specialist replacement. That resulted in the slowing of their ball at ruck time. That could be an issue for the second Test in Hamilton.
Cotter said captain Levani Botia was outstanding in his leadership and the example he set, especially for younger players in the side, by leading from the front.
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