New Zealand will be striving to join an elite group of national teams when the third and final test against South Africa starts at Seddon Park today.

To succeed, they'll need to play outstandingly, but even then the weather gods might not smile on them.

In their test history going back to 1930, New Zealand have lost 170 of their 421 tests.

On 24 occasions they won the next test, 12 times they were against the same opponents, during a series.

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And of those 12, nine were matches to win, save or keep a series alive.

Break it down further and six of the nine were in the past 22 years.

There are no particularly distinctive features of the nine.

For example, New Zealand won the toss in six of the nine matches; they batted first four times. Two of the nine matches took place in New Zealand.

Some of these matches stand among the most celebrated in New Zealand test history.

The wins in Christchurch against the West Indies of 1987, Australia in Perth and Hobart, for different reasons, Sri Lanka in Colombo, and in Port Elizabeth 55 years ago, when New Zealand squared a series overseas, with wins included, for the first time have particular lustre.

1 v South Africa, Port Elizabeth, Feb 1962

New Zealand won by 40 runs.

This earned New Zealand a drawn series and, following a 72-run win in the third test in Cape Town, their first overseas test wins. Wellington batsman Paul Barton made his first, and only, test century, 109, and after getting an 85-run first innings advantage, they set South Africa a fourth innings target of 314. South Africa laboured to 223 in 144 overs as captain John Reid produced a Herculean bowling performance, 45-27-44-4, to confirm the victory. Reid also scored 546 runs at 60.6 in the five-test rubber.

2 v West Indies, Basin Reserve, March 1969

New Zealand won by six wickets.

The second test of the series, after a five-wicket loss in Auckland. The West Indies were loaded with stars such as Garry Sobers, Seymour Nurse, Basin Butcher, Clive Lloyd, Charlie Griffith and Lance Gibbs. Fast bowler Dick Motz took his best test figures, six for 69, to dismiss the Windies for 297, but they were rolled for 202, Glenn Turner's 74 the main contribution. However, the West Indies were dismissed a second time for 148, leaving New Zealand 164 to win, which they got on the back of Bryan Hastings' unbeaten 62.

3 v Australia, Perth, Nov-Dec 1985

New Zealand won by six wickets.

The final match of the series dominated by Richard Hadlee's 33 wickets. On a difficult pitch, with sluggish outfield, Australia were dismissed for 203, no one getting to 40, as Hadlee took five for 65. New Zealand responded with 299, at a scoring rate of 1.90 an over. Bruce Edgar and Martin Crowe made 70s. Australia were dismissed a second time for 259, Allan Border's 83 the standout, as Hadlee snared six for 90. Martin Crowe's unbeaten 42 got New Zealand to 164 for four, but it took 74 overs. New Zealand won the series 2-1.

4 v West Indies, Christchurch, March 1987

New Zealand won by five wickets.

A fine win to square the series. The highly regarded Windies team - including celebrated names such as Greenidge, Haynes, Richardson, Richards, Gomes, Dujon, Garner, Marshall and Walsh - were rolled for 100 in just 36.3 overs, as Hadlee (six for 50) and Ewen Chatfield (four for 30) prospered. Martin Crowe's 83, and his 156-run third wicket stand with brother Jeff (55) and a pugnacious 66 from John Bracewell lower down, pushed New Zealand to 332 for nine declared. When the Windies were dismissed a second time for 264 - Martin Snedden taking his test best five for 68 - it left just 33 runs for the win. New Zealand lost five wickets in the process.

5 v England, Lord's, July 1999

New Zealand won by nine wickets.

The second test of the series, New Zealand going on to win the fourth to secure a 2-1 series victory. Chris Cairns' six for 77 bowled England out for 186, and Matt Horne's 100 gave New Zealand a 172-run lead. When England were dismissed for 229 it left New Zealand needing only 58 to win.

6 v Australia, Hobart, December 2011

New Zealand won by seven runs.

A thriller, albeit shortened on a pitch the colour of a billiard table. When New Zealand were dismissed for 150, worst fears seemed confirmed. Only Dean Brownlie's 56 was above 20. But Australia ducked below that, all out 136, with three apiece for Chris Martin, Doug Bracewell and debutant Trent Boult. New Zealand fared slightly better second time around, 226, Ross Taylor making a gritty 56. Australia needed 241 and at 199 for nine were toast. But David Warner (123 not out) and last man Nathan Lyon inched Australia close, until Bracewell bowled Lyon to cue major man hugging. Bracewell took nine for 60 off 26.4 overs in the match.

7 v Sri Lanka, Colombo, November 2012

New Zealand won by 167 runs.

This followed a 10-wicket loss at Galle and squared the series in Taylor's last match as captain. He batted superbly, knowing he was to be pushed out of the job. New Zealand got 412 with Taylor (142) and Kane Williamson (142) the star turns. Tim Southee and Boult went to work in steamy conditions, sharing nine for 104. Taylor's 74 as New Zealand made 194 for nine declared, left Sri Lanka a target of 363. They didn't get close, as Southee and Boult took three more wickets each. A great win, and the best possible way for Taylor's reign to end.

8 v West Indies, Barbados, June 2014

New Zealand won by 53 runs.

This test won the series for New Zealand, after a win, then loss, earlier in the rubber. A strong Jimmy Neesham double, 78 and 51, plus a Williamson special, 161 not out, left the West Indies needing 308 for victory. Boult, Southee and offspinner Mark Craig took three wickets each to seal the deal.

9 v England, Leeds, May-June 2015

New Zealand won by 199 runs.

Having been well beaten at Lord's in the first test in London, New Zealand bounced back emphatically. Luke Ronchi, on debut, made 88 and 31. Regular test keeper BJ Watling, playing as a batsman, hit 120, Tom Latham made 84 in the first innings; Martin Guptill 70 in the second. England were left 455 to win but got nowhere close. Craig and part time spinner Williamson took three wickets each.