Key fears emulating the All Blacks of 1999

Prime Minister John Key (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key (Getty)

Prime Minister John Key fears pulling an "All Blacks in 1999" at the next election, and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

He's already led National to three election wins, and majority of recent polls have consistently have the party sitting pretty just over a year out from the next vote.

But speaking to Paul Henry this morning, Mr Key said he's still thinking hard "about how you win".

"In politics a lot can happen in a week. You sit there and say, 'Ah well, the polls look good,' then all of a sudden it's a little bit like the All Blacks, you saw it in 1999 - they were thinking about the final while they were in the semi-final, and they lost."

The infamous semi-final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup saw the All Blacks blow a 24-10 lead over underdogs France, getting crushed in the second half and losing 43-31.

If instead Mr Key pulls a Richie McCaw and wins again, he hasn't confirmed whether he'll serve the full three-year term, or step down to make way for someone else.

"If I answer that question now, I'll have a whole week of things to answer, so I'm not going to do that."

Former Labour leader Helen Clark failed to win a fourth term, and Labour has gone through four leaders since, without electoral success.