Sapphire is cheaper than Hercules, though both are made to the same ATI reference design.
In terms of experiences I cant help you - just waiting for delivery of my own 9700 :)
However, if you go to click here and look in their forums, you will find a number of people with the info you require. I found them very knowledgable of pros and cons of all graphics cards as they are "hardcore" techheads and gamers.
In terms of monitor you need to make a choice between LCD and CRT first. In absolute quality of image terms, CRT is the way to go - LCD's are now close, but not quite there. A high quality CRT (eg Ilyama) will beat an LCD on pure image quality. However wiegh up cost and desk space as well. CRT will be cheaper, but will take up more space.
Personally I am buying an Ilyama 17" TFT. It is more expensive than a 17" or even 19" CRT, but it has exceptional quality of image/response time for a TFT and will reduce my desk space considerably, as I have a 21" Compaq at the moment. Try looking at places like click here for reviews and comparisons of TFT's, CRT's and performance in games.